Wednesday, February 26, 2014

R.I.F. raff

When I arrived in Japan for my first tour, I met a former squadron member who was no longer in uniform, but was still living in Japan.  Apparently his wife had a great job in Tokyo so they stayed in-country after the Navy kicked him out.  No, he hadn't embarrassed the service or had any conduct unbecoming, but he was unfortunate enough to have an "R" following USN on his name tag.  As an active duty reservist who had not yet been augmented to USN, he was "riffed" in the early 90s with a severance and his walking papers. Reduction in Force or RIF, is a lousy way to end a career.  I was told he kept his sense of humor though, because one night in the club, he wore a sign around his neck stating "Will Navigate For Food."  Later during that tour, my squadron was saddled with three "Super-JOs."  These were Officers coming off their first shore duty tour, and put back into the squadrons because the Viking community didn't have enough officers to fill the cockpits.


When the Navy disestablished all the A-6 Intruder squadrons in the early to mid-90s, sending many aircraft to the grave yard, quite a few pilots and even more Bombardier/Navigators suddenly found themselves without a platform and viable careers.  Some, but not all of the pilots eventually received transitions to other communities.  Whereas, far too many NFOs weren't as lucky, left with careers adrift, unable to continue flying and reaching necessary milestones for promotion and other aspects of career progression.

With those lessons learned the hard way, and still fresh on the mind of S-3B Viking community leadership, they were prepared when the call came for the Viking squadrons to go.  The community took great strides to plan out the "Viking Sundown" in order to take care of the Officers and Enlisted personnel.


The plan included a slow phase out of the aircraft over 8 or 9 years, just 1 squadron initially, increasing slowly, with no more than 2 squadrons closing down in any one year.  Aircrews and maintenance personnel were dispersed out to the remaining squadrons, with some aircrew transitioning to other aircraft.  BUPERS, or the Bureau of Naval Personnel,along with CNATRA- Chief of Naval Air Training, and the other aircraft communities were brought into the planning as well, with them all working together (including under-accessing student pilots and NFOs into flight school) in order to provide room in other squadrons for the men and women of the Viking community.

So while the A-6 community closure led to a glut of Pilots and NFOs on the market, and no coherent plan for their futures, the S-3B Sundown was planned to mitigate that effect.  All JOs would be offered a transition to other communities and a select few of the O-4 Department Heads would be selected for command in F-18, EA-6B, E-2C, and P-3 squadrons, all well timed to benefit all hands.


Except things don't always work out like you planned.  When somebody high up found out that he could save a million bucks by closing 2 squadrons in the first year, the whole sundown plan fell like a house of cards.  The timeline was shortened to 5 years, nearly double the rate that was planned, and the Navy couldn't adequately absorb the aircrew into other squadrons.   Money trumped the people, no matter what good intentions we had.

Corporations tend to cut with an axe as well- the stock price being all powerful- and they will lay off hundreds if not thousands of workers at a time, while closing stores or manufacturing plants.  Loyalty of the employee is usually irrelevant when it comes to the bottom line.

It appears that the Navy, and corporate America aren't alone in that thinking.

Here's an article that is quite harsh in the writer's assessment of the US Air Force's business practices when it came to making personnel cuts a few years ago.

Loss of Integrity: Deception On Rise in Air Force Drawdown


The Air Force version seems a bit more nefarious- asking for volunteers to take early separation or retirement, then pulling that rug out from under them by determining those with hands raised weren't eligible.  The COs of the units, and the Officer's peers could see those hands and knew which folks aren't as loyal as others, who weren't dedicated as they should be, and who shouldn't be given consideration for promotion, educational opportunities, and so forth.

Then the USAF later decides to RIF them anyway.

Money trumps people every time.


5 comments:

  1. I watched the post-Viet Nam RIF thin the USAF ranks in Athens, Greece in '74 - '75 - many a senior NCO and JOs had their Monday morning routines, preparing for the day, interrupted by phone calls telling them not to bother. It was ugly.

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  2. Timely post. I've seen RIFs in both the military and the civilian world, and their tough no matter what. It seems to me that no matter how much you like your job it's in your best interest to have a plan B at all times. I'm waiting to see how the Army handles its upcoming force reductions.

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  3. RIFs suck no matter how you look at them. I've seen them when I was in the AF and again in my "new" civilian gig.

    Based on this post Tuna, I think the non-flying Air Force is exactly like a corporation. Again my former service has embarrassed those of us who once wore AF blue.

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  4. I found the linked article troubling, in light of the fact my AF son was notified he'll meet that board. I also forwarded the link to him with a note that the prudent man prepares for ALL eventualities. His leadership has assured him he's in no danger and the fact he's assuming command of the aircraft maintenance squadron at the 1FW this coming June would seem to support those assertions. But one never knows.

    And then there's this, in the Department of Observable Nits: ..."Will Navigate For Food." and ...with three "Super-JOs."

    +1, Tuna.

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  5. The laughsters in planes used to sneer at SWOs for eating our young but that was probably nicer of our leaders than waiting to chew them up and spit them out after they invested 10 years in the service and were thinking they were on the glide slope home. It was cruel of us to laugh back at them and their sub brethren who ate the DBF crowd and then snacked on the strat weps guys. The saddest guys I ever saw were the Marine captains crying in their beer at the club after they learned that they had failed to augment to a regular commission and the Marines were spitting them out.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)